Seeking God

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O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:1-8

David remembers. He has seen God, he has experienced his glory, and now he longs for God again with all of his being. He finds himself in a place of dryness and thirst and he knows that God is the only one who will be able to satisfy this need. The language of this psalm is full of a kind of urgent desperation that is perhaps sometimes lacking from our own prayers.

God promises that those who earnestly seek him will find him (e.g. Matt 7:7, Lam 3:25, Deut 4:29). He doesn’t play a cosmic game of hide-and-seek with us – rather, he has gone to great lengths to reveal his truth and character to us in the Bible and through the person and life of Jesus. And once we find him, it is a very good idea to cling to him for dear life! Quite literally. There will be times of dryness when we will need to remember our spiritual mountain-tops, just like David.

But oh, how privileged we are to live in the days that David looked forward to! Our greater David has come:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:37-39

Who am I to stand in God’s way?

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“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying,“Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:17-18

In this section of Acts, Peter is defending himself against criticism from the Jewish ‘Circumcision Party’, who accuse him of wrongly associating with the wrong people (i.e. Gentiles). Peter recounts the events which have happened to him: the extraordinary vision of unclean animals on the rooftop, the arrival of Cornelius’ men, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the new Gentile believers. Peter rightly recognises that if this is from God, he cannot possibly stand in the way.

Stunned silence follows.

These devout Jews are mentally processing news which blows apart some of their most deeply held views and forces them to rethink aspects of their faith. 

Then the silence breaks and they start to glorify God and rejoice in this amazing work of grace. These Jewish believers showed a gracious willingness to listen and an ability to reflect on and respond to the clear work of God that Peter describes.

Sometimes we think we have it all figured out. We can feel quite sure that our way of ‘doing church’, or ‘worship’ is the right way, or we think that we know how God works, or the kinds of people he uses. We are foolishly arrogant to presume to know the ways of God. Our long-held views sometimes need to be shifted if they are not in line with God’s purposes.

God is a God of extravagant blessing. He doesn’t drip-feed his Spirit to us, he pours it out! On young and old, men and women, educated and illiterate. We must be careful to test all things against God’s truth, but we must not exhibit spiritual snobbery or stand in the way of the workings of God’s Spirit.

Perfect Peace

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You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26:3-4

Perfect peace…sounds too good to be true? How on earth do we obtain this perfect peace? Is it by living in a state of oblivious denial to the troubles and problems around us? Or by striving to sort out everything in our lives until we finally reach a place of contentment?

No, Isaiah declares that the key to being ‘kept’ in perfect peace, is to have a mind that is fully trusting in God. Our minds are very important – how we think strongly governs how we feel and behave. And Isaiah knows that the only way that it is possible to have peace in this world is to centre our thoughts on the One who is rock-solid, and place our trust in his goodness, his provision and his love. Like the man who built his house on the rock in Jesus’ parable, we can stand against the storms of life if we have a firm foundation.

Paul urges the Philippian church to talk to God about every situation, concern and need:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

This perfect peace, which only God can supply, defies all human reasoning and understanding. It is available to all of us, if we will take up God’s free offer of a personal and living relationship with him.

All the days ordained for me

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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139:14-16

God saw you and loved you long before you were born. He has formed all of our days for us and it is good to remember that as we live them. Some of us have many days on earth, some have very few, but each one is from God – will we make the most of each one?

God is fully in control and knows all the days of our lives. This doesn’t make us fatalistic or passive but gives us freedom to live in the knowledge that the One who is far greater and wiser than ourselves holds our days in his hands.

Lord, please give us the grace we need to live this day you have given us well!

PS For a helpful sermon on the apparent paradox of God’s sovereign will and human responsibility/choices, have a look at this Tim Keller message called Does God Control Everything?

He has borne our griefs

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He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:3-5

Meditate on this incredible description of Jesus in Isaiah this weekend. Bring your griefs and sorrows to Him; let his wounds heal yours. Praise Him that his sufferings have paid for your sin.

How’s your diet?

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Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  1 Peter 2:2

A newborn baby is utterly dependent on milk for survival and he will cry until the parent provides it. So are we to be with God’s word. It is our daily bread and our spiritual milk. There are plenty of alternative soul-foods on offer: the addictive approval of others; a blast of retail ‘therapy’; fascination with celebrity culture; the high of risk-taking or the numbing effect of alcohol; the obsessive pursuit of external beauty or fitness; the thrill of a good gossip session; or a nice wallow in self-pity. These things give a temporary sugar-rush, but they are unhealthy junk-foods that cause spiritual sickness and malnutrition.

People all around us are spiritually starving.

Peter wants his readers to grow up and mature into the full experience of their salvation.

What are you feeding your soul? God delights to provide you with everything that you need to grow spiritually.

A Priceless Inheritance

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And we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the realm of change and decay.  1 Peter 1:4

Nothing in life is certain. Much chronic anxiety has its roots in our struggle with uncertainty and circumstances beyond our control. We try to gain control in our lives, clinging to the things we believe will make us happy, or secure, or content. And then the false gods of security, money, success, health and pleasure fail to protect us from the inevitable disappointments, tragedies and losses that life brings.

But as children of God, we have a rock-solid, pure, unchanging, utterly dependable, living hope! Our eternal glory, our sure salvation, the joy before us! Our inheritance is the incredible privilege of being able to enjoy God, and all that he is, forever. If we grasp this, it transforms everything. This truth about our heavenly inheritance gives us the ability to endure trials on earth. We have the possibility of joy in all circumstances.